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Your Consumer Advisory Committee

Posted March 16th, 2011 by Scott Marshall - Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

The Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC) is yet another means by which the consumers’ voice is heard at the FCC.

Originally established in November 2000, CAC advises the commission on consumer issues within its jurisdiction and facilitates the participation of consumers -- including people with disabilities and underserved populations such as American Indians and persons living in rural areas -- in proceedings before the FCC.

On December 30, 2008, the commission announced the rechartering of the Committee for a fifth two-year term thru November 2010. As a federal advisory committee, CAC membership is required by law to represent a balanced point of view.  Accordingly, of the committee’s 28 volunteer members, 12 represented interests of consumers, minorities and low-income communities, five represented the interests of people with disabilities, six represented the interests of Tribal, state and local governments and five represented the telecom industries.  Debra Berlyn, formerly of the Digital Television Transition Coalition and presently the National Consumers League, chaired the committee.  

Last November, the committee was rechartered for another two year term (PDF) through 2012. Applications for committee membership were solicited and are currently being reviewed.  It is expected that Chairman Genachowski will make appointments to the CAC in April.

A highlight of the CAC’s fifth term was two recommendations concerning the Consumer Information Disclosure Notice of Inquiry, CG 09-158 (PDF), which sought comment on whether there are opportunities to protect and empower consumers by ensuring sufficient access to relevant information about communications services.  These two recommendations , adopted by the committee in March and August of 2010, relate to the kinds of pre-sale disclosures consumers need when they are trying to make wise purchases of wireless, broadband, and other communication services.

For further information about the Consumer Advisory Committee, along with the recommendations referred to in this post, visit the Consumer Advisory Committee section of our website.  If you have any questions about the Committee please contact me, Scott Marshall, CAC's Designated Federal Officer, at scott.marshall [at] fcc [dot] gov.

Posted in Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Advisory Committee Consumers
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Launching the TAC Blog Series

Posted November 12th, 2010 by Tom Wheeler

Last Thursday afternoon I had the honor or chairing the first meeting of the FCC’s new Technical Advisory Council, or TAC.  The TAC exists under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which follows a proud tradition of providing the Federal Government with outside consultation, dating back to the George Washington Administration and the first President’s Committee on the Whisky Rebellion.  Thankfully our Council’s challenge does not involve such physically dangerous circumstances!  This is the 5th TAC that the FCC has convened and in this iteration, our Council has been charged with another specific, critical task: To help the Commission identify important areas of innovation and develop communications and technology policies that will drive job creation and economic growth.

Our TAC has been convened at a dynamic time at the FCC and for the communications and technology industries.  When the first TAC was suggested in the 1990’s, the FCC was an agency overseeing multiple analog networks.  The digital world has changed that.  IP has pushed activity to the edge and innovation has followed.  The Census Bureau estimates that most of the net employment gains from 1980-2005 came from firms younger than 5 years old—and those firms looked more like the distributed networks that connected them than they did the centralized networks of old. 
Amidst this change, the challenge for the TAC in its advisory role is to answer several questions. 

o What are the innovations that are down the road that the Commission must anticipate now?
o What is the IP world delivering with unprecedented speed and how does the FCC encourage, not inhibit those developments to translate into investment and jobs?
o As the technology agency of the government, how can the FCC utilize its voice, especially in the short term, to bring these innovations to bear quickly in a variety of areas (health, energy, public safety, transportation, and others)?

At our first TAC meeting, we brought together a diverse group of some of the most talented technical minds in industry, academia, and the investment world to discuss these issues and to begin to structure our work around these questions.  Several topics were discussed that may lead to more indepth work and investigation by the Council.  These included:

• The transition to IPv6 technology
• Increased cross-agency coordination on new technology uses in various industries
• Privacy and security concerns and their effect on adoption of new technologies
• Easements and Rights-of-Way impact on the speed of broadband infrastructure deployment
• The importance of national testbeds and access to research facilities
• Technology competitions to foster innovation
• Retirement of legacy systems
• A technology corps, similar to Americorp but focused on technology initiatives

While the TAC will only meet in person quarterly, we plan to be very proactive in our work.  TAC members will be organizing into working groups around the issues we discussed in our initial meeting.  You will be hearing from some of our members here on the FCC Blog as guest bloggers as they share their ideas and progress.  Committee meetings are open to the public, and we also welcome input from non-committee members via email to TAC [at] fcc [dot] gov.   We hope you will follow our discussion and participate in the conversation.

Posted in Advisory Committee Technical Advisory Council
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The World Radiocommunication Conference

Posted February 26th, 2010 by Alexander Roytblat

The World Radiocommunication Conference (or WRC) is an international treaty-level forum held by the International Telecommunication Union (or ITU) (a United Nations agency) about every four years.  At the WRC countries decide on the sharing of frequency spectrum to allow the deployment or growth of all types of radiocommunication services such as wireless, broadcasting, satellite, aeronautical and other services.  Because WRC decisions have such wide-reaching effects on U.S. and international radiocommunication industries, the preparations for this conference begin several years in advance.  During the WRC preparatory phase, long term goals and positions that would benefit the U.S. government and commercial industry are developed. 

To identify the public interest for various items to be addressed by WRC, the FCC established a forum, WRC-12 Advisory Committee (WAC), in which the public can provide its views and recommendations to the agency.  The WAC is established under the Federal Advisory Committee Act.  The WAC is chaired by private sector representatives and has an open membership structure.  The FCC takes WAC recommendations in to account as it develops positions for the WRC based on the public interest standard.  In parallel, NTIA works with the Executive Branch agencies to identify their priorities for the conference.  Subsequently, the FCC and NTIA reconcile any differences and formulate joint recommendations to State Department which has overall responsibility for U.S. preparations and participation in the WRC.  This approach increases the opportunity for information exchange, and benefits everyone involved.

Posted in International Bureau Wireless Advisory Committee
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